Last updated: 12/15/2020
One of the highlights of our visit to Lisbon was visiting the incredible Jerónimos Monastery. You don't have to be religious to admire the architectural and cultural beauty of this incredible place, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check out tips on how to get to know the entire Monastery complex.
THE MONASTERY OF JERÓNIMOS
The Jerónimos Monastery is located in the beautiful Praça do Império, in the Belém district of Lisbon. Built in 1502, at the request of King Manuel I, it has this name because it was initially built to be a Monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, a cloistered Catholic religious order founded in the 14th century.
With one imposing architecture, in Manueline style, mixing Gothic and Renaissance elements, it is considered one of the great architectural wonders of the country. The monastery was built in limestone rock and the work was carried out over a hundred years. The original plan, which has been altered over the centuries, included the church, the cloister and adjoining rooms.
In 1834, with the extinction of religious orders in Portugal, the monastery passed into the hands of Real Casa Pia de Lisboa, a charity institution for orphans and disadvantaged people. At the beginning of the 20th century, several works were carried out in the monastery, destroying initial structures and installing stained glass windows on the south facade. In 1940, the place became the Parish Church of the Parish of Santa Maria de Belém. In 1983, together with the Belém Tower, its legacy was recognized by UNESCO and listed as a World Heritage Site.
HOW IS THE VISIT TO THE MONASTERY OF JERÓNIMOS
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1. CHURCH, HIGH CHORUS AND SACRISTY
The structure of the monastery consists of a church with a Latin cross plan, consisting of three naves. The chancel we see today is not the original, which was demolished in 1571 at the request of D. Catarina, wife of King D. João III. On the high altar, there is a painting by Lourenço de Salzedo with scenes from the Passion of Christ and the Adoration of the Magi. The church also serves as a pantheon, housing the tombs of the poet Luís Vaz de Camões, the navigator Vasco da Gama, King D. Sebastião, the descendants of King D. João III, among many others.
One of the great unmissable highlights of the church is the high choir area, which was used for prayers and chants by monks until the 16th century. There is a large image of the “Crucified Christ”, erected by the sculptor Filipe Brias, in 1550, as well as a beautiful set of paintings depicting the apostles. The view of the church's nave from the upper choir is beautiful. We stayed for a few minutes just watching the movement from this place and admiring the beautiful architecture of the grandiose church. Attached to the church is a large sacristy room, built between 1517 and 1520. The fourteen oil paintings represent scenes from the life of St. Jerome.
One of the highlights of the visit are the monastery's cloisters, consisting of two vaulted floors and a square plan, with cut corners, forming a virtual octagon. In it are several architectural styles combined, along with religious symbols and naturalistic elements. It is impossible not to be impressed by the richness of the details that decorate the columns and open windows of the cloister. As we visited the monastery during the winter, the grassy central area was undergoing renovation and therefore not looking so beautiful. In the north wing of the lower cloister is the tomb of the great Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa.
3. OTHER ROOMS
Other prominent rooms in the monastery that are accessed from the cloister include:
- “Chapter Room”: With an imposing door built in 1518, this room houses in the center the tomb of the writer Alexandre Herculano and, in the past, it housed the tomb of other important Portuguese who are currently in the National Pantheon.
- Refectory: This room was also completed in 1518 and is decorated in a Manueline style, with an emphasis on its vault. Note its walls covered with tiles that were placed in the 18th century.
- Library: Built around 1640, this space was home to a library that housed 8,000 works at the monastery's heyday. Currently, the room houses a permanent exhibition that tells the story of the 500 years of the Jerónimos Monastery.
- Confessionals: In the past, anyone who wanted to confess had to enter through the cloister and access one of the 12 doors of the old confessionals (two of them were later closed).
ECONOMY TIP: LISBON CARD
For those who want to visit several places in Lisbon, including the Jerónimos Monastery, our tip is to purchase the Lisboa Card. The Lisboa Card gives you free entry to several attractions in the city, as well as unlimited public transport. It is possible to buy the card in 3 versions: 24h, 48h or 72h. The train ticket between Lisbon and Sintra is also included in the Lisboa Card, as well as discounts at various shops, tours and attractions. We tested and approved!
HOW TO GET TO THE MONASTERY OF JERÓNIMOS
Take the opportunity to visit the Jerónimos Monastery on the day you are visiting the Belém area (our day 2 of the itinerary Portugal: What to do in Lisbon – 3 days itinerary). To get to Belém from the center, it is possible to take the electric tram 15E or the bus 714 at Praça do Comércio. The trip takes just over 30 minutes and there is a stop right in front of the Monastery.
- Address: Empire Square 1400-206 Lisbon, Portugal
- Monastery / Cloister: from October to April from 10 am to 5.30 pm / from May to September from 10 am to 6.30 pm / closed on Mondays
- Church: October to April 10am to 5pm / May to September 10am to 6pm / Sundays and religious holidays 2pm to 6pm / closed on Mondays
- Entrance: free church / monastery €10 / ticket combined with Belém Tower €12 / buy skip-the-line ticket in this link / free with Lisbon Card
We thank the visit Lisbon for granting us tickets to visit the Jerónimos Monastery and transportation to the site. All opinions in this post were based on our own experiences.
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